Kent

Romney Marsh pillbox to become a hibernating bat roost

Inside a pillbox
Image caption The cold, damp, dark conditions inside the World War II pillbox is a perfect roost for hibernating bats

A pillbox, built to defend the Kent coast in World War II, is to be used to help protected hibernating bats.

Under the threat of a German invasion, a network of guard houses or pillboxes were built along the old Royal Military Canal near the Romney Marsh.

The invasion never came and the concrete structures were abandoned and fell into disrepair.

Now the National Trust is converting a pillbox at Kenardington into a roost for hibenating bats.

David Lewis, from the trust, said: "It would have been manned by the local Dad's army - local volunteers manning heavy duty machine guns."

Sticking their guns out through the slots in the pillbox, the volunteers would have had a clear view across the marsh to watch for potential invaders.

Bats 'under threat'

Today, the cold, dark, damp conditions inside are ideal for hibernating bats.

Mr Lewis said: "Having been out of use since the last war, it will be nice to put it back into something useful.

According to the National Trust, the location of the Kenardington pillbox is ideal as it is surrounded by an exceptionally good feeding habitat of woodland corridors, meadows and water.

The area provides a number of good breeding sites, but few hibernation opportunities.

"There are not many caves out here so what we are providing is an artificial cave. It will be the 'des res' in the area for bats," said Mr Lewis.

The conversion will entail blocking up the gun slots and painting them black to give the impression of dark holes.

Image caption Bats are on the protected species list and have very few places to hibernate in the area

Wooden batons secured to the inner walls will support timber planks and tiles for the bats to crawl behind for their hibernation period.

A metal grill gate will then be fitted in the entrance to prevent unauthorised access.

Karen Hammond, from Hastings Bat Hospital, said: "They are losing their habitats at the moment - they are under threat they are on the protected species list.

"The more that we can make people aware of them and the problems they have, then the better it is for the bats.

"If we can provide more of these for them, hopefully their numbers will come up."

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